Beneficial Effect of Two Culture Systems with Small Groups of Embryos on the Development and Quality of In Vitro-Produced Bovine Embryos
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Currently, in vitro-produced embryos derived by ovum pick up (OPU) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) technologies represent approximately one-third of the embryos worldwide in cattle. Nevertheless, the culture of small groups of embryos from an individual egg donor is an issue that OPU-IVF laboratories have to face. In this work, we tested whether the development and quality of the preimplantation embryos in vitro cultured in low numbers (five embryos) could be improved by the addition of epidermal growth factor, insulin, transferrin and selenium (EGF-ITS) or by the WOW system. With this aim, immature oocytes recovered from slaughtered heifers were in vitro matured and in vitro fertilized. Presumptive zygotes were then randomly cultured in four culture conditions: one large group (LG) (50 embryos/500l medium) and three smaller groups [five embryos/50l medium without (control) or with EGF-ITS (EGF-ITS) and five embryos per microwell in the WOW system (WOW)]. Embryos cultured in LG showed a greater ability to develop to blastocyst stage than embryos cultured in smaller groups, while the blastocyst rate of WOW group was significantly higher than in control. The number of cells/blastocyst in LG was higher than control or WOW, whereas the apoptosis rate per blastocyst was lower. On the other hand, the addition of EGF-ITS significantly improved both parameters compared to the control and resulted in similar embryo quality to LG. In conclusion, the WOW system improved embryo development, while the addition of EGF-ITS improved the embryo quality when smaller groups of embryos were cultured.